Staying close to Chittranjan Park in Delhi has its own advantage. One can make multiple visits to the Pandal venues before and during the Durgapuja. And I did exactly the same this year.
Duragapuja is a part of the festive Autumn season across India. The Autumn festival has different connotations with different Gods being worshipped across, but the days are common. North India has Ramlila culminating with Dussehra, West has Navratri Garba with Maa Ambe’s worship, East with Durgapuja, South worships Goddesses such as Lakshmi-Parvati-Saraswati and so on. Interestingly, the autumn festival primarily celebrates goddesses.
All these years I avoided going there during Pujo season due to the crowds. Also, the way the idols are treated post Visarjan kept me away from all such festivals where the idols are submerged in water post celebrations. Its heartening and the sight of dismantled figurine lying on ground is just unbearable.
That doesn’t mean that the idols don’t mesmerise me. Of course, they do. This time I decided to make a visit during the Puja preparation time and see if I can see how the idols are made. As a kid, I have visited Kumartuli in Kolkata but have very faint memories of that.
So, one Sunday I picked up my camera and set out to Chittanjan Park to capture the spirit of Durgapuja preparations. Luckily enough, I got access to the area where the idols were being made and the artisans were cooperative enough to let me shoot.
It was very interesting to see the idols taking shape and the devotion with which the idol makers were giving shape to various idols.
It’s not just the pandals but also the pandal preparation that starts almost a month in advance to welcome Maa and the work goes on till the last minute.
Over the years, the main idols haven’t changed, and they all start the same way. But despite the same start, the idols at different pandals look different due to the color of the outfits, ornamentation as well as the whole theme of the pandal.
But whatever the result, the faith and devotion in the pujo is undeterred and that’s most important. Year after year, people from all walks of life welcome Maa every year and forget all their works for the five days and spend as much time as possible celebrating Durgapuja. They wait round the year and then dress up in their best attire to spend time with Maa.
In fact over the years, the duration of Pujo is extending. Earlier Maa was unveiled on Shashti¸the sixth day of Navratri season but now a days, some places the pujo starts from first Navratra itself. Whether it’s the result of devotion or commercialization, is yet to be seen. But whatever the reason, people get to spend more time with Maa and that is what matters. If only, the post-visarjan condition of the idols can be resolved, this would be the perfect festival of celebrating homecoming of Maa.